The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made a motion to pass the bill, and no senator objected.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who single-handedly blocked the bill from passing last year due to concerns about its cost, announced he was dropping his objection to the legislation earlier on Tuesday.
“It sounds like Congress wants to do it so I’m not going to stand in the way,” Johnson told HuffPost. “I just think it’s kind of odd that now apparently the only way to do [celebrate the end of slavery] is to give 2 million federal workers a paid day off, cost American taxpayers $600 million.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the measure last year amid mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd. It gained more support this year, garnering 18 Republican co-sponsors.
African Americans have celebrated the end of slavery on June 19 since that day in 1865, when the Union Army belatedly brought word to Galveston, Texas, that slavery had been outlawed, two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Cornyn said he was “happy” to see the bill pass in the Senate.
“It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years. Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union,” the Texas senator tweeted.
If the bill passes in the House, Juneteenth would become the 11th annual federal holiday. However, only federal workers are required by law to get federal holidays off. There’s no requirement that private businesses give their employees the day off.
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